Your Social Science Research and Analysis Skills Can Help You Find the Right Job For You

By Tracy McGarry, Undergraduate Career Development

Your skills as a social scientist can help you not only on the job, but also in evaluating and securing a job that is right for you! Here’s how you can use the research, observation, and analysis skills developed through your social science coursework and fieldwork to evaluate organizations and opportunities.

1. Conduct fieldwork

Use your fieldwork skills for networking to gather qualitative data. Interview alumni or other professionals in fields of interest to learn about organizations and industry culture. Ask if you can job shadow for a day or a week of ethnographic study. Take notes, record data and observations, and analyze the information collected to understand whether you’d want to work there.


When you go to an interview (job or informational) notice the surroundings. What is the space and decor communicating? What does it tell you about how work is conducted? Is there an open floor plan, cubicles, or offices? Are offices opaque or clear? Is there a view? What kind of art is on the walls , and what message does it convey about how the business sees itself?


Who are the people at work in this enterprise? Do people look similar to each other or do you see a diversity of ethnicity, race, age, gender? Evaluate your reaction to the people that you meet. Can you imagine yourself feeling comfortable there and “fitting in”? If not, why not? What factors contribute to your sense of connection or disconnection?

2. Parse textual offerings

Before an interview, research the organization and analyze the tone of company literature, social media posts, mission or vision statements, web images, and self-descriptions (e.g., their “About Us” page). What is the image they are trying to convey? Do their materials demonstrate an inclusivity of viewpoints and people?

Examine job descriptions to understand key employer priorities and needs. Tailor your cover letter and resume to showcase your skills and address these needs.

Check out secondary sources to understand how this organization is perceived within the field. Read industry journals or news and business articles. If you’re considering a startup, review quantitative data to evaluate the fiscal soundness of the enterprise, to complement your cultural analysis.

3. Analyze social culture

If you have the opportunity to watch people interacting in an office or networking space, pay attention to body language, displays of power, and gender and racial dynamics. Who dominates the conversation? Who interrupts and who is interrupted? What can you tell about the office hierarchy and politics? Do people seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s company or is there a falseness to the bonhomie? How closely do people stand? Who wields power and how do they do so? Do you see incursions into personal space (leaning over or physical contact)?

In the physical space, take note of the social culture and how people use space to interact or isolate. Is there total silence? If there is music playing, what kind? Do you hear laughter, intense conversations, raised voices? Are doors open or closed?

4. Put it all together

Synthesize your impressions to get a holistic sense of the company’s social norms and culture.

Comparing your observations about the organization and opportunity to what you know about yourself, what do you notice? How does this organization or opportunity align, or not, with your interests, values, skills, and personality?

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